Clock ticking on Costa Rica national park closure

February 20, 2009

The clock continues to tick for Manuel Antonio National Park, which has until Thursday to correct health and sanitary problems or face closure at the hands of the Health Ministry.

Last week, Health Minister María Luisa Avila gave the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) 10 days to correct the problems at the park, which include mosquito-breeding standing water, a garbage dump within the park and sewage leaks from the bathrooms by the park´s most popular beach.

Efforts were underway over the weekend to correct the problems, with the last of the old, rusty cars parked at the dump being hauled away Monday, officials said. But Benefort Cubillo, administrator at Manuel Antonio, said 10 days would not be enough time to correct the sanitation issues, which he said had existed at the park for decades.

“There is no possibility to have a long-term solution” in 10 days, Cubillo said, adding that deliberations within MINAET were ongoing regarding short-term proposals to meet the Health Ministry´s demands.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 tourists attend the park every day, generating over ¢1 billion colones ($1.8 million) last year in revenue. That money is put into a general fund and split among the country´s national parks, however, leaving meager resources for the country´s second-most visited park, Cubillo said.

For their part, officials at the Health Ministry said they would be willing to negotiate short and long term solutions to keep the park open.

“It´s very difficult to keep the park open if there is still a health risk,” said Dr. Carlos Manuel Venegas, Central Pacific regional director at the Health Ministry. “It´s better that we close it” while problems are taken care of, he said, while adding, “there is no problem with negotiation. Closing is the last resort in this type of situation.”

See the Feb. 27 print or digital edition of The Tico Times for more on this story.

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